Why DEI Has to Be an HR Focus for 2022
If diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) aren’t at the top of your Human Resources priorities for 2022, you may be setting yourself up for any number of unwanted difficulties both this year and beyond.
A growing responsibility for HR teams
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the workplace environment in various ways, greater attention is being paid to employees’ mental health and happiness than ever before. In many instances, it falls to HR to ensure that employees feel valued, and alongside their expectation of greater empathy comes a demand for improved diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
This isn’t news. Plenty of companies were already committing to expanding and improving their DEI initiatives as of last year – it was added to most organizations’ priorities for 2021. And in terms of the numbers, it isn’t slowing down anytime soon. That’s reflected in a recent report by Traliant and World Business Research which found that 79% of companies will allocate more budget and/or resources to DEI in 2022.
That’s an impressive percentage. Unfortunately, however, many of the companies that pledged to take action last year seem to be losing momentum or taking surface-level actions and stalling in their DEI journeys.
Too many quick fixes
According to a study by Mclean & Company, the unfortunate truth is that many of the actions taken in 2021 by organizations leaned towards quick fixes instead of focusing on holistic, long-term strategies that address equity and inclusion. This is particularly risky as it can cause an organization to appear performative, which can cause significant damage to its brand reputation. Those losing traction mostly lacked leadership buy-in, governance structure, and formalized strategy.
So how can you take real, impactful action to address DEI in your organization?
While we outlined some steps to successful workplace diversity and inclusion policies earlier, taking the traditional approach of diversity training (though it’s a good and necessary start) may not be enough. DEI strategies need to stem from your business strategy instead of being sequestered and merely obligatory HR efforts.
DEI needs more than just commitment
What remains even more important than senior leadership commitment, however? The fact that your DEI strategy needs to resonate with and reflect your brand and people – it needs to honestly acknowledge and provide a way to elevate your corporate culture, in other words. Just running a one-day bias training course that feels forced and out of place within an existing culture could cause more harm than good.
The most effective steps organizations can take to address DEI issues, based on one extensive report, are surprisingly simple – listen and act on what matters most to your employees.
Additionally, having measurable goals and clearly defined KPIs is essential to tracking your progress and ensuring your organization is heading in the right direction. With the right metrics and commitment to your DEI initiatives – and the people they impact – your HR department can play a crucial role in your enterprise entering the future of legal diversity.
This ties into leadership buy-in; HR may need to establish accountability for DEI, particularly when it comes to the organization’s leaders. In addition, keeping stakeholders informed and involved in critical conversations can be helpful and encourage them to be active advocates.
In terms of the HR department, staff should be informed and able to identify and consult on all manner of DEI barriers and issues and have DEI initiatives embedded in all of their programs. Yet a strong, effective DEI strategy should extend beyond HR and be owned by all departments and leadership across the enterprise.